Napa County has more than 444,000 acres of land under permanent or high levels of protection from development.
Throughout our history, vintners in the Napa Valley have set the highest standard of land use and management designed to preserve our agricultural heritage and way of life. Building on our history of sustainability, vintners continue to demonstrate environmental leadership through programs such as Napa Green Land and Napa Green Winery.
Napa Valley’s environmental leadership story begins in 1968, when Napa Valley vintners and others in the community had the forethought to preserve open space and prevent future over-development by enacting the nation's first Agriculture Preserve. This land-zoning ordinance established agriculture and open space as the best use for the land in the fertile valley and foothill areas of Napa County. Initially the ordinance protected 23,000 acres of agricultural land stretching from Napa in the south to Calistoga. Today, more than 38,000 acres are contained within the Preserve.
Understanding the importance of keeping rural lands rural, the Land Trust of Napa County was established in 1976 and created conservation easements for land owners to preserve and protect their land in perpetuity from development. Today, more than 53,000 acres, roughly 10% of Napa, is protected.
In 1980, Napa County voters passed Slow Growth Initiative Measure A, which required that the Napa County General Plan adopt a Growth Management System that limited growth in Napa County to no more than 1% per year. This measure, which protects against sprawl and encroachment into ag land, is still in effect today.
By 1990, there were more than 200 wineries in the Napa Valley. As the wine industry continued to grow, it became apparent that clear definitions of what a winery was and what it wasn’t were needed. Can a winery have its own on site restaurant? What about weddings and music festivals? That year, the Napa County Board of Supervisors adopted the Winery Definition Ordinance, which clearly defined and limited winery construction and activities in keeping with the land use regulations designed to protect Napa County for agricultural use.
Recognizing the threats of erosion that hillside and valley floor vineyard development could pose to Napa’s watersheds, in 1991 Napa County enacted comprehensive and rigorous conservation ordinances that regulated hillside development and ensured that vineyards had ample setbacks from streams. These ordinances further protected Napa Valley from development pressure, and in 2012 The Greenbelt Alliance announced that “Napa County has more than 444,000 acres of land under permanent or high levels of protection from development.”
In 2004, the NVV worked with other industry groups and the environmental community to create the Napa Green Land and in 2008 Napa Green Winery programs. These voluntary programs focus on environmentally sound, sustainable practices that meet and exceed 19 local, state and federal land or production best practices and are certified by an independent third party. Napa Valley wineries and growers participate in farm-specific practices tailored to protect and enhance the ecological quality of the region or a production facility program that reduces energy, waste and water for an overall goal of pollution reduction.
A retrospective about the environmental leadership of Napa Valley's vintners and growers, from inception of the historic Agricultural Preserve in 1968, to innovative, new programs like Napa Green.